Honors Theses

2024-2025: I will be on sabbatical during this academic year and will not be advising theses.

Writing an honors thesis is a very rewarding experience for both the student and the adviser. A thesis allows the student to investigate a question in much more depth than allowed in traditional courses. The production of a thesis of more than 100 pages is a stimulating intellectual experience and can be the culmination of study at Wesleyan.

The thesis writing process is a long and difficult one. Students should expect to spend a significant portion of the summer before their senior year, and their winter and spring breaks working on the project.

The Government Department suggests: “Students who may wish to write a senior thesis should therefore begin to plan their project during their junior year. A number of faculty members are either unwilling or very reluctant to supervise a senior thesis unless the student who proposes it has completed at least one upper-division course with the prospective adviser, has a well-defined, imaginative, and feasible project, and demonstrates that he or she has acquired substantive knowledge and research skills pertinent to the proposed project. The formulation of an acceptable thesis topic is a more difficult and time-consuming task than it might appear. Students who anticipate writing a thesis may also wish to spend the summer preceding their senior year working in a job that is related in some way to their chosen thesis topic or doing preliminary reading and research.”

I require that students writing honors theses with me:

  • have received an A in one of my courses. If you are currently registered in a course with me, your midterm grade can provide a rough guide on this matter;
  • have a topic in my area of expertise (American foreign policy, the influence of public opinion or democracy on foreign policy, decision making in foreign policy, or international security). If you are in doubt over whether your topic falls into one of these areas, please feel free to e-mail me with your topic idea;
  • meet with me to discuss their initial idea during the spring semester of their junior year;
  • produce a research prospectus for my evaluation.

If I determine that you and your project meet the criteria listed above, I will inform you that I have accepted you as a thesis advisee.

Once accepted as an advisee, students will:

  1. complete preliminary reading and idea development over the summer;
  2. produce, in consultation with me, prior to the end of the drop/add period in the fall semester of their senior year, a preliminary, general outline for the thesis chapters (2-3 pages in length) and preliminary deadlines for the completion of the chapters.

If these two conditions are met, I will approve GOVT 409 tutorial requests for the Fall semester.  Failure to complete items #1 and #2 will result in the termination of the honors thesis.

By the end of the Fall semester, students will be expected to produce a well-developed first chapter (literature review and research design) and a rough draft of a data chapter.  Failure to meet these expectations will result in the termination of the honors thesis (I will not approve the GOVT 410 tutorial).

I am glad to discuss my expectations in regard to any of these requirements with you.